To celebrate our one year wedding anniversary, my wife and I made a trip to Beijing on 19 January. It is my first time to China.
Before I go into detail on our trip, I thought of sharing some information and tips on getting into China. A visa to enter China is required for Malaysians. One can apply at the Chinese Embassy at OSK Building. You can complete the visa application form online or get the form from the office. I would recommend that you complete the form online and book an appointment with them to submit your form. If you don’t, you would need to line up at the office. The queue is quite long. An appointment takes less than 5 minutes. The visa application is quite fast, just submit your form, supporting documents (ie itinerary, air ticket and accommodation) and your passport. You can choose your processing time. I choose the regular time which is 3 days.
Alternatively, you can get a runner to do for you. Our travel agent said it costs RM60 per person.
We used the services of a tour agent. It was about RM4000 for both of us for 6 days (flight not included). The tour includes the usual tourist areas such as Great Wall, Tiananmen Square and Forbidden City. There are of course cheaper packages out there but you’ll probably be brought to some low end restaurants, stay in cheaper hotels or have more market visits.
We wanted to skip the compulsory market visits (tour includes bringing you to shop at certain places ie tourist traps). But to do that, we need to top up around RM500. We decided not to pay such exorbitant amount.
We were fortunate that the staff at the shops that we went were not pushy or aggressive. I was told that some of these shopkeepers will force you to buy something from them. Some even to the extend of blocking the exit!
Yes, the air was this bad!
Our tour was a private and English speaking tour. It was just us and our guide, Jack and our driver (can’t remember his name). Jack is a nice and accommodating Beijinger. Although it’s supposed to be an English speaking tour, Jack did most of it in Chinese – Beijinger Mandarin to be exact. I couldn’t understand most of it due to his strong Chinese accent. He couldn’t understand our Malaysian accent as well. Reminds me when I met my Finnish friend in Finland. We couldn’t understand each others’ English when we met at his house. We had to go online at his house so that we can speak on the net.
Beijing was cold. We came at a time where pollution was at its height. I couldn’t make out whether the sky is misty or covered with smog. We couldn’t see the sun most of the time. We came at a time where Beijing’s air pollution was at its height.
It snowed on the second day. Although the road was covered with snow, it wasn’t as thick as Oulu’s snow.
We stayed at Crowne Plaza, Wang Fu Jing. It’s a nice hotel located a few minutes from the shopping centres of Wang Fu Jing. Their service is good and there’s WiFi at the lobby. WiFi is accessible from our room but we need to pay for it. However, there were a few days where we could access it for free.
Wang Fu Jing is a well known shopping district of Beijing. It’s filled with massive shopping centres. Many of them reminded us of One Utama and Mid Valley. Big Western brands are here and prices are almost the same with Kuala Lumpur. Even food prices are about the same.
Wang Fu Jing at night
St. Joseph’s Church, Wang Fu Jing
On our first day, we ventured into a restaurant called Tianjin GoBelieve Steamed Stuffed Bun (yes, Go Believe!).
It serves dumpling and porridge. Their steamed pork dumpling was okay – the meat was a bit mushy. Can’t tell whether it’s cooked or not. Porridge on the other hand was bland and watery. It comes in two colours namely yellow and brown. It didn’t taste good to me but the locals seem to love it.
We also roamed around Wangfujing Snack Street to check out their common and exotic street food. They served things like starfish, scorpions and snails.
Snails. Mum once told me that she had to stop a bunch of Chinese students from eating some snails they found at the drain. Now I know why they caught the snails cause these snails look like those we have at home!
Seremban crab stick – I don’t think we have this in Seremban!
The best place we tried so far was a place called Grandma’s Kitchen. It’s located in a shopping centre. The queue to get a place is incredible. It was extremely long. We took a number and we were told that we will be called in 1 1/2 hours time!
Whenever someone’s turn is called, the shop will announce, “Mama chiao ni che farn leee (Mama is asking you to come and eat!).
Food was pretty good. Our tea cooked chicken and organic cabbage were great.
On our last day, we wanted to try Grandma’s Kitchen for lunch. Unfortunately, it was packed with people again. We went to another place nearby called Xiang Yuan Spicy Food.
Again I managed to meet up with some Chinese lawyers. This time round was Gloria and David of a reputable intellectual property firm in Beijing. I met Gloria when I attended the INTA conference in Berlin. They brought us to a nice fine dining Chinese restaurant in Wang Fu Jing.
Overall, the trip was great. I wasn’t expecting much of China but it was an eye opener. I would certainly go back to China again to check out other parts of China!